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date: 14 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for knowledge of halakhah in late antiquity. Because of this finding, there is now original first-hand information on halakhah as practised by a specific Jewish group during the Second Temple period. Previously, the only other extant collections of halakhic material were the corpora of mishnah and midrash. While these incorporate some first-century material, they were redacted in the third or fourth centuries, thus postdating the scrolls by at least 200 years. This article portrays these two bodies of literature. It examines their structure and content, depicts their fundamental assumptions with regard to the origins and authority of halakhah, and explores the relationships between them. The article uses the ‘Essene hypothesis’ and refers to the laws and religious customs found in the scrolls as representing the halakhah practised by the Essenes.

Keywords: Qumran halakhah, Dead Sea Scrolls, Second Temple period, mishna, midrash, Essene hypothesis

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